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Tested by Fire


David Costa


‘Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too.

They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.’

~ Stephen King

I dedicate this book to my wife Helena and my granddaughter Erin who, through their love and encouragement, helped me to finish this story.

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-one

Chapter Thirty-two

Chapter Thirty-three

Chapter Thirty-four

Chapter Thirty-five

Chapter Thirty-six

Chapter Thirty-seven

Chapter Thirty-eight

Chapter Thirty-nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-one

Chapter Forty-two

Chapter Forty-three

Chapter Forty-four

Chapter Forty-five

Chapter Forty-six

Chapter Forty-seven

Chapter Forty-eight

Chapter Forty-nine

Chapter Fifty

Chapter Fifty-one

Chapter Fifty-two

Chapter Fifty-three

Chapter Fifty-four

Chapter Fifty-five

Chapter Fifty-six

Chapter Fifty-seven

Chapter Fifty-eight

Chapter Fifty-nine

Chapter Sixty

Chapter Sixty-one

Chapter Sixty-two

Chapter Sixty-three

Chapter Sixty-four

Chapter Sixty-five

Chapter Sixty-six

Hurghada, Egypt: Two Weeks Later

Malta: One Month Later

About the Author

A Note from the Author



Chapter One

You never hear the shot that kills you.

Costello lay flat in the back of the white Transit van, the tripod holding the Barrett Browning .50 calibre rifle steady. He held the stock against his right cheek and shoulder, the barrel pointing between the slightly open rear doors. As he looked through the scope, the outline of the figure standing beside a car half a mile away crystallised into clarity in the crosshairs. Costello began to take the pressure on the trigger, his aim square on the chest of his target.

Private Stephen Channing 1st Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers had been working at the Vehicle Check Point (VCP) since 0800hrs that morning and his four-hour stint was almost up. The VCP was part of a ring of manned check points that encircled the small village of Bessbrook in South Armagh. The job of the patrol was to check the vehicles entering the village which was home to the Bessbrook Mill Army Base, and one of the busiest landing pads in the world with hundreds of military helicopter landings and take-offs carrying troops, police, supplies, and equipment around the outlying bases of South Armagh.  The danger of land-mine attacks in the infamous Bandit Country of the South Armagh Provisional IRA had made it almost impossible to travel by vehicle transport. The check points around the village provided a protective shield, preventing vehicles potentially carrying explosives getting close enough to hit the base.

Stephen Channing was happy, the day was bright, and his thoughts were on relaxing in the sun on the grass near the landing pads after lunch.

Costello took the full pressure of the trigger, squeezing through. He felt the cushioned kick in his shoulder as the figure in his sights stood up straight to inspect the licence he’d been handed by the driver of the red car beside him.

The soldier felt as if someone had hit him square in the chest with a sledgehammer, throwing him backwards and knocking him completely off his feet. The pain reverberated through his entire body as the bullet punched through his flak jacket and exited out of his back after destroying most of his internal organs. He blacked out before the real pain registered; he was dead when his body hit the ground. What remained of the bullet exploded against a wall behind him, sending shards of masonry in all directions.

The van moved off in the opposite direction, leaving another dead British soldier lying on the ground.

The driver of the red car could only tell the police that the soldier was already flying backwards when he heard the loud bang of the shot. Maybe it was true. You never hear the sound of the shot that kills you.






Chapter Two

She checked if she was being watched. Before she became one of their agents, years of being on the run from the British Security Services had left their scars. His voice kept coming back to her. Trust no one; always expect danger and you’ll be all right.

The man she knew as Joseph had been her RUC Special Branch handler. She’d been his agent inside the top echelons of the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland. The war was supposed to be over yet now she felt the danger and again, she was turning to the one man she trusted.

She remembered all he’d taught her on the streets of Belfast – London was no different to any big city – she could hear his voice clearly in her head.

Use the shop windows, use the reflection in the glass to see who’s behind you. Memorise the clothes people are wearing. If you’re in a building, use the lift, professionals won’t follow you in because it’s hard to avoid eye contact inside. Drop your keys or tie your laces, take a chance to look around you.

She used his teachings as she walked through Victoria close to the main national bus station. Opposite the main entrance to the station was the Red Lion Pub She entered knowing it would be busy and loud, many accents lost in the crowd. She’d been here many years ago with Joseph and he’d shown her how she could walk in the front door on one street and leave by the back door on another, allowing her to confuse anyone who might be following her.

Its main attraction today, however, was the public phone at the back of the bar.

She knew the Belfast number by heart and when the voice answered, she spoke clearly, ‘This is Mike, BC15, I need to speak with Joseph at the set location in London. Tell him, Democracy. I’ll be at the meeting place

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